Wednesday, January 20, 2016

THE PA MELTING POT: 9-4 A Southern Europeans: Italians from Abruzzi/Abruzzo and Molise

The PA Melting Pot:  Southern Europe:  9 - 

Italians 4 A - Abruzzi aka Abruzzo and Molise

Western PA is comprised of 13 to 16% Italian-Americans.  We do know that many came from south central and southern Italy such as the regions of Calabria, Campania, Apulia, Abruzzi aka Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata and Sicily. Southern Italy was impoverished. The immigrants left to find work.  The country itself only became united in 1861 so the immigrants from the different regions considered themselves Calabrians, Campanians, Sicilians, etc. instead of Italians and they settled with their own paesani (villagers). 

From 1876-1924, more than 4.5 million Italians arrived in the US and over two million more came in the years 1901-1910.

NOTE ABOUT ITALIAN CUISINE: Italian cuisine (one of the oldest cuisines in the world) developed through centuries of social and political changes with roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Italian cuisine has its origins in Etruscan, Greek and ancient Roman cuisines.   These two Italian regions are located in the south central part of Italy.  They are traditionally lumped together as one since the culture, cuisine, wines and proximity are so similar and at one time they were co-joined.  The most famous dish in Abruzzi is arrosticini (lamb on sticks cooked over coals) and in Molise it is cavatelli (homemade macaroni type pasta served with meat sauce, broccoli or mushrooms).

They are famous for their regional specialties, cheeses and wines.  Pasta, meat and vegetables are central to the two cuisines. Chili peppers (pepperoncini) which are called diavoletti or “little devils” because of their spicy heat are popular. Due to the shepherding in the area many lamb dishes are popular, many of which are served with pasta. Mushrooms (usually wild ones), rosemary, garlic, hot chili pepper, aromatic saffron and fruity olive oil are prominent in Abruzzi-Molise cuisine. Also raised on the coast are carrots, potatoes, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, figs and plumsIt is also important to note that the extra virgin olive oil produced locally is rated as one of the best in the country.

Formaggi (cheeses) include cow’s/buffalo’s/ewe’s milk such as Caciacavallo, Caciofione, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Provola/provolone, Ricotta, Ricottina and Scamorza.

   Cucina (cuisine) dishes include Brodetto (fish stew seasoned with oil, garlic, tomato, onion, chopped parsley and wine vinegar), Capocollo (cured neck of pork), Cif Cin (pork dish flavored with garlic and rosemary), Maccheroni alla chitarra (special shaped pasta served with lamb sauce), Mortadella di compotosto (very garlicky Italian sausage), Mulette (smoked salt pork), Orecchie di preti (“Priests’ ears” pasta), Papicci al pomodoro (a kind of pasta with tomatoes) and Pincigrassi (pasta made with egg & alternating layers with chicken livers, sweetbreads, sausage, onions, truffles and Marsala then topped with cheese and baked). As for other seafood cod, red mullet, clams and mussels are also popular.

Dessert (desserts) include biscotti, calgiones (calzones), torroni (a round cake honey, sugar, egg white and nuts), scrippelle (crepes), fritelle (fritters) and Le torte dolci (sweet cakes).

Alcool (alcohol) drinks:  Ceneterbe (Hundred Herbs) is a strong 72% alcohol, spicy herbal liqueur drunk by the locals.  Another liqueur is Genziana distilled from gentian roots. (Gentian is an herb root often associated with good digestion).

Vino (wines):  Montepulciano DOCG and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC are considered among the world’s finest wines. In 2012 a bottle of Trebbiano d”Abruzzo Colline Teramane ranked #1 in the top 50 Italian wine awards.